ENSURING VETERANS WITH HEARING LOSS DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE – Guest Author: ALI LOWE

How We Can Ensure Veterans With Hearing Loss
Don’t Suffer In Silence

While America is proud to honor those who served in the U.S. military, many of America’s veterans return home carrying physical, psychosocial and psychological trauma from their tours of duty. Millions of active service personnel develop hearing loss, tinnitus or other auditory conditions during their military career.

Today, as many as 2.7 million veterans are living with a hearing condition as a result of their military service. Repeated exposure to loud noises from heavy equipment, roadside bombs and gunfire is often the root cause. While hearing loss and tinnitus is often overlooked, they are actually the most common service-related health issue affecting veterans. For friends, relatives, and employers of veterans with a hearing condition, it’s important to understand not just how it can impact their lives but also what you can do to help them.

Adjusting To Civilian Life

Adapting to a new civilian life from a military career is often much more than just simply changing job roles. For most veterans, it means a change in virtually every area of their life. From their home, career and training to their healthcare, lifestyle and the community they are part of. But when a veteran is having to live with a hearing condition, this can all become even harder. They may find themselves struggling to understand friends and colleagues, especially when there is background noise. Hearing loss and tinnitus can make it very hard for veterans to maintain relationships with family members and friends and can have a devastating long-term impact on their lives.

Hearing Conditions Affecting Veterans

Veterans are 30% more likely to have a severe hearing impairment compared to nonveterans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The type of hearing loss that veterans generally experience happens when the sensory hair cells located in the inner ear become damaged or even destroyed. These hair cells are what translates sound into electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain for interpretation. These hair cells do not regenerate.

But hearing aids can amplify sounds and is the most common treatment option. Damage to the sensory hair cells can also lead to tinnitus. Veterans with tinnitus may hear intermittent or constant buzzing, ringing or hissing sounds that can be so severe it stops them from being able to sleep or concentrate. There is no known cure for tinnitus, but in most cases, it can be managed. Hearing aids can sometimes provide enough sound amplification to help mask the tinnitus.

Hearing Loss And Civilian Employment

Veteran unemployment has continued to remain below the national job rate, according to data from the Bureau of Labor. Hearing loss, deafness, and tinnitus should not be a barrier to a veteran applying for and excelling in a job after they’ve left the military. All that is needed is for managers and colleagues to understand and support them.

One of many hearing tests

While veterans may feel reluctant to disclose their hearing loss, especially to a new employer, doing so ensures that managers can make any necessary adjustments to the working environment or even just how they approach the way they communicate to their team. Certain federal laws including The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, including hearing loss.

Nicole Seymour, audiologist on the job!

Managers should ensure that any veteran in their team with a hearing condition has the appropriate devices and resources they need such as amplified phones with an extra-loud ringer and adjustable handset volume. Giving team members the opportunity to learn crucial communication skills to support their veteran colleague and other existing colleagues with hearing loss can also be extremely beneficial.

Hearing Loss And Social Isolation

When veterans are living with a hearing condition, they often avoid social occasions especially busy and noisy places, such as a restaurant, as they can feel socially excluded as they simply cannot keep up with the conversations around them. This can have a huge effect on their confidence as well as their relationships and can gradually become a bigger and bigger problem for them. Hearing loss is often linked with a variety of mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression which are conditions that veterans are already at a greater risk of developing.

A hearing loss, however, shouldn’t stop a veteran from socializing and spending time with their friends and loved ones. But it can be hard when certain places are so noisy and it can feel too overwhelming for someone with hearing loss. That’s why it can often be better to choose somewhere that is much quieter and even pre-book to ensure you get a table in the quieter part of the venue.

Garry and Dr. Remenschneider. When your doctor is not much older than your grandchild, you know you’ve put on a few years.

If the background music is too loud, don’t be afraid to ask the manager to turn it down. If you feel awkward about it just explain that it can be very difficult for people with hearing aids to cope with loud background music. Choose a venue with good lighting, so that anyone in the party that needs to lipread can do so easily. Don’t forget, when everyone takes their seat, make sure the veteran with hearing loss is in the best spot to be able to hear and see everyone.

What Friends And Loved Ones Can Do

Friends and relatives of veterans living with a hearing condition can make a huge difference to the quality of their lives by taking a few simple steps. For instance, when someone has a degree of hearing loss, don’t just suddenly speak at them and expect them to respond. Always make sure you have their attention by using their name before you start talking to them. Try to avoid talking to them from behind, instead tap them on the arm to get their attention. Remember that it can often be harder for them to hear and understand what you are saying if everyone is talking at once, they are tired, they have tinnitus or there’s a lot of background noise such as the TV or the vacuum cleaner.


While we are grateful for the service our veterans have given for their country, many return home with severe hearing loss that can be devastating. As friends, relatives, and employers of veterans, it’s important \we understand the impact of hearing loss and what we can do to ensure they enjoy a happy and fulfilling civilian life.

See also:

HEARING GEORGE RAFT – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

HEARING, IMPLANTS — AND WHAT’S THAT SOUND? – Marilyn Armstrong

 

BRAIN DEATH AND FIBROMYALGIA – Marilyn Armstrong

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia almost 20 years ago, but it never flattened me the way it has this time around. I’d like to blame the whole thing on Donald Trump. In fact, I think I am going to blame it all on him. He has raised the national stress level to such a degree that we have an actual national epidemic of high blood pressure and overall stress.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been too exhausted to function at any normal level. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop because you’re not dealing with it well. Life charges on, crawls along, limps, wheezes and generally somehow or other gets the job — whatever it is — done. This has been a rough one.

I have been so tired that all I want to do is sleep. Except that sleep is difficult at the best of times and this is not the best of times.

According to the Mayo Clinic

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.

Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, although a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures can also help.

Widespread pain

The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache. I think it has long passed dull pain and moved into higher thresholds but that’s just my opinion and not having a medical degree, what do I know? Oh, and it has to have lasted for at least three months. Do years count? To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.

You have no idea how much I hate being asked how much pain I’m in. It brings out my violent streak.

Fatigue

People with fibromyalgia often get up tired even though they have slept for long periods. Sleep is often disrupted by pain. Many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.

Discovering you’ve forgotten how to think

A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks. Writing one or more posts a day has really been difficult. I feel like my brain is packed in cotton-wool.

Although no one knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia, it most likely involves a variety of factors working together, typically arthritis (rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, or both), IBS, insomnia, etc. Since fibromyalgia can be triggered by psychological stress, I blame Hizzoner.

Why does it hurt?

Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This involves an abnormal increase in brain neurotransmitters. Also, the brain’s pain receptors develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they overreact to pain signals.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men. If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. I have two out of three. So far, I’m missing lupus, but the future holds unlimited hope.

Complications

The pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety. Many doctors don’t seem to “get” the link between fibro and emotional overreaction.

I don’t see any problem connecting the dots between being in pain (everywhere), exhaustion, lack of sleep, and a feeling pissed off about pretty much everything. Mostly, I’m pissed about feeling so crappy and trying to somehow manage life anyway because it doesn’t take a pass while you recover.

So I figure, why not blame it on Orange Head? I loathe the bastard anyway, so it’s got to be his fault.

Why am I writing this?

I’m having a lot of trouble keeping up with life. I’m tired. I feel dull and stupid. It’s hard for me to read. It’s hard to think. I feel unusually awkward, clumsy — as if I’m always on the verge of falling down. So if I’m not reading as many posts or for that matter, writing as well as I think I should, all I can do is blame it on my dying brain.

And Orange Head.

FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #27 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #27

The question this week is exactly the kind of question I do not ever want to answer. It might be a question nobody wants to answer unless they are a medical researcher with skin in the game, so to speak.


“If you could choose one — and only one — particular malady, condition, or disease for which a safe and effective treatment was available, what one condition would you choose to treat and why is that your choice?”


As someone with more maladies than I care to list, some likely to kill me, others just likely to be a serious pain in my back, exactly how would I pick?

I have absolutely no idea what I should pick. Cancer? It has managed to kill about three-quarters of my closest family. Heart disease took the rest — and I’ve already had both, big time. Or maybe I should vote for arthritis? Unlikely to kill me, but very likely to make living increasingly unpleasant.

I’m pretty sure they are doing significant research on all of these diseases. Cure them? Who knows? But they have come a very long way in treating both cancer and heart disease. Arthritis lags behind, likely for a couple of obvious reasons the first being that almost everyone gets it.

It probably is not preventable unless old age is preventable. Also, it isn’t lethal, which means it doesn’t generate the money for “cures” that more fatal diseases garner.

I’ve got it! Let’s cure aging!

I don’t mind going gray or wrinkly. But let’s dump arthritis, exhaustion, bad hips, worn-out knees, loss of memory, and insomnia. While we are at it, cure dementia and Alzheimer’s. Add a little zip to our steps so we can be old, wise, and energetic. So we can still be who we have always been — right up until that last breath.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

And please, while you are at this curing business, make sure everyone has full access to medical care, no matter what is wrong with them.

A BIPOLAR LIFE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My first husband, Larry, was bipolar, but he wasn’t diagnosed until thirteen years into our 25-year marriage. However, the ups and downs were a part of my life from the beginning. Larry could be fun, smart and affectionate. He had a wicked sense of humor (including clever puns), tremendous energy (sometimes too much, manic energy), a great “joie” and endless enthusiasm.

Larry in a jocular mood

He loved to read and was interested in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from physics and biology to history and sociology, to law and mysteries. He also loved the arts, particularly the theater and at one point we had five theater subscriptions at the same time. In addition, we also went to Broadway shows quite often, which kept us very busy and very up to date on the theater scene of the day.

One of Larry’s passions was shopping and when manic, he was a true shopaholic. He couldn’t resist buying anything that tickled his fancy, which was a lot of stuff. On the other hand, I loved it when Larry would shop with me in my favorite stores; craft shops, art galleries and jewelry and clothes stores. He would even come into the dressing room with me and help me pick out what clothes to buy. He had wonderful and sophisticated taste, though his taste was often a lot bolder and flashier than mine.

I really shouldn’t complain, because Larry loved to buy things for me. However, when he was manic, he would overspend and buy everything in sight. I was in charge of the budget and it was frustrating to see all my budgeting and saving go out the window with Larry’s shopping sprees. It got to the point that I would pretend that I didn’t like things we looked at because if I said I liked it, it would be mine in no time flat!

Two pendants with matching earrings Larry bought for me on trips out West

Once my son, David, then around twelve, went to an electronics store with Larry. Before they left, I pulled David aside and instructed him to try to keep his father’s purchases down. They returned with not one, but two VCR’s and I asked David why he had failed to rein in his dad. “Hey!” he said. “I talked him down from three, so don’t complain!”

Another positive side to Larry’s love of shopping was that he was always an active partner with me in decorating our homes, helping me choose everything from wallpapers and fabrics, to furniture and window treatments to bathroom fixtures and door knobs. We also designed our house in Easton, Connecticut together with the help of an architect. It was a wonderful, shared experience and the house meant so much more to both of us for the experience we had in creating every nook and cranny and picking every design element. I remember jumping out of bed late one night to draw out a new plan I had just thought of for the kitchen/breakfast room area. It was a wild idea and it was the design we eventually used in the house. I still love it 30 years later!

The kitchen design – with rounded eating area and round sunroom off of kitchen island area

Larry exhibited his sense of humor and fun one Christmas when he and David, like many other Jews, went to the movies on Christmas day. Before the show started, as a joke, Larry stood up and started singing the Jewish classic “Havanegela”. To his delight, the rest of the audience joined in and Larry acted as conductor for the group sing-along!

Larry didn’t sleep much and was always on the go. I needed a lot of sleep and ample amounts of downtime, which created much conflict between us. On weekends, he would get up early and want to go out and do something, get something to eat or just window shop. David was also not a morning person so we would take turns appeasing a very persistent, and often annoying and inconsiderate Larry.

Larry playing with David, 6 and Sarah, 1

One day, when Sarah was about eighteen months old and couldn’t talk yet, Larry got up and started pestering David, who was six and a half, and me to go out with him. Suddenly, our toddler ran into her bedroom, grabbed her coat and then ran to the front door. It was her way of saying “Take me, Daddy! I want to play with you!” Now Larry had a new playmate for his early weekend excursions and David and I were thrilled! When Sarah could talk, she’d say to Larry, “Let’s go sopping!”

Larry and Sarah continued their ‘sopping’ trips for the rest of Larry’s life (he died shortly before Sarah’s 21st birthday). He and Sarah also traveled and went to lots of shows and movies together from early in Sarah’s life and it was something wonderful she shared with her dad. Those memories are important and comforting to her now.

But there was a dark side to Larry’s bipolar disorder. When he cycled manic, as he did every year or so, he became volatile, paranoid, angry and agitated. He would fly into rages about the slightest thing, real or imagined and he would become verbally abusive. To our frustration, he would often ‘forget’ these episodes as soon as he calmed down. He was what is called a “rapid cycler.”

A classic example of that syndrome happened one Thanksgiving when we were supposed to drive from New York to Larry’s sister in New Jersey. In the morning, Larry was curled up in a ball on the bed, refusing to even get up. I eventually got him up and we started to drive to New Jersey when he suddenly went berserk over something.

I don’t remember what it was on that occasion, but once the kids were making too much noise in the back seat of the car and once I left the dirty dishes in the sink. To Larry, that proved that I didn’t care about him, that he didn’t matter, that he wasn’t important to me and that I was a bitch.

The four of us when David was 13 and Sarah was 8

On this Thanksgiving drive, Larry pulled the car over to the side of the street and stormed off, refusing to come back to the car. David finally talked him down and got him back into the car, because, as usual, Larry refused to even talk to me. We eventually made it to New Jersey, but Larry had gone from paralyzing depression to raging mania in the course of one day.

Another holiday in New Jersey ended badly because of Larry’s manic overreactions. He stormed out of a lot of rooms, houses and cars over the years, often on major holidays with family. But this one was special, even for Larry.

We were playing a game with Larry’s sister, Robin and her family, my kids and Larry. Larry was being hyper-competitive and was trash talking everyone constantly, which I think he thought was funny. After asking him to stop several times, Robin finally got exasperated and told him to shut up and Larry snapped.

The four of us when David was 16 and Sarah was 11

He stormed out of the house, but this time he took our car and disappeared. We eventually got a call saying he was at the train station and was taking a train back to New York, even though he was supposed to be going back to Connecticut with me and the kids for the long holiday weekend. Robin had to drive David to the train station so he could drive our car back to Robin’s so I could drive back to Connecticut with the kids. Robin talked to Larry at the station and they patched things up, but Larry still insisted on taking the train to New York, disrupting and appalling everyone. I was mortified and everyone else was shaken and upset. This was not an uncommon situation for me, but each time it happened, it was like a punch to the gut.

In some ways, it would have been easier for me if Larry had always been abusive and impossible to live with, but he wasn’t. He was eventually put on Lithium, which worked well and contained his mania, but he kept going off the meds.

I loved the non-manic Larry, so the hope that Larry would get help, and then that he would stay on his meds, kept me with him for 25 years.

B+ AND ME: BLOOD TYPES AROUND THE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

A few years ago, I got to thinking about blood type. I wondered how come I have B+ blood when everyone in my family is O or A. I decided to go hunting on the Internet to see if I could learn something about where I come from using this tidbit of information.

Blood type O: the Americas
Blood type O: the Americas

It turns out, B-type people are universally less common than O and A.

It might mean I have some tidbit of Asian ancestry. Genghis Khan made serious inroads into Europe. Who knows where the seeds of his army were left?

Blood Type A: Central and Eastern Europe
Blood Type A: Central and Eastern Europe

The incidence of type B is low amongst Jews. Low everywhere, but not unheard of, nor so infrequent as to be rare. But low.

My mother was type O, the most common blood group everywhere. Among native peoples in the western hemisphere, type O is close to 100%. Many scientists theorize that “O” was the “original” human blood type and all other types mutated from it.

That’s one theory, anyhow. Blood types do mutate and occasionally even change completely following a transfusion.

This is a bit of a hot topic because some places, blood typing has been used to categorize people as inferior, notably Japan. There are always racists looking for a way to prove they are superior to everyone else. At least one study (I’m not sure I should dignify it with that name) claims people of B-type blood are descendants of Neanderthals while O and A descended from Cro-Magnon.

This is pure speculation. Not research.

Worse, there are pockets of racists who contend that A is the only pure Aryan blood type. What evidence did they base this on? None. Particularly interesting since O is the dominant blood type everywhere.

Blood type B: Asia
Blood type B: Asia

Overall in the world, B is the rarest ABO blood allele. Only 16% of humanity has it. It reaches its highest frequency in Central Asia and Northern India. It’s believed to have been entirely absent from Native American and Australian Aboriginal populations prior to the arrival of Europeans. However, there are relatively high-frequency pockets in Africa too. 

B is not a dominant blood type anywhere. It is highest in the Philippines and Siberia, the lowest in the Americas. Very rare in the British Isles and Scandinavia. The highest percentage it reaches is 38% of the population and that is in the Philippines. In the Middle East, the ultimate melting pot, all the major blood types are more or less evenly divided in the population.

If this shows some kind of migratory pattern for our ancestors, no one can prove it. Not yet, anyway, but they are working on it. The Middle East is the land pathway between Africa, Europe, and Asia, so it makes sense that many types of people might make their homes there.

It turns out there is no universally accepted theory of the origins of man. Scientists and other theorists can’t even agree whether or not we all have the same progenitors.

blood types around the world

So after all this, I don’t know much more than I did when I started. Clearly, there is something to be learned from the distribution of blood types in the world, but no one is certain of exactly what.

One of the possibilities of my “B” blood type is that my father was mistakenly typed and rather than A, was actually AB. But the truth is that blood types do sometimes pop up unexpectedly. There are lots of recessive traits lingering in us. My B+ blood has a number of unique qualities, which is why I have a blood donor card that specifies the unique other qualities of my blood.

In fact, the blood types we know – O, A, AB, B – in both positive and negative forms are not the whole of blood-typing. It gets a lot more complicated than most people realize, which is why there are whole hospitals dedicated to dealing with blood.

I think eventually blood typing will be one of the many ways we trace the movements of our Neolithic ancestors. Maybe even pre-Neolithic.

SLEEPLESS ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM TOMORROW! THE FUN NEVER STOPS! – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve got a “sleepless” EEG (electroencephalogram) tomorrow morning. It means I can’t go to sleep until midnight and I have to be up by four in the morning and be at the hospital by eight in the morning. No caffeine, but I can have breakfast.

I don’t know how to have breakfast without coffee. What am I supposed to eat? Without coffee, am I supposed to cook? Like … food?

I suppose it will be something to do while I have to wait to leave for the hospital. Do I need to tell you how much I’m not looking forward to this?

So please do not be surprised if I don’t make comments in the morning or write much. I am likely to go back to bed. Quite probably Garry and I will both go back to bed. Except I will have to take a shower and wash my hair first because they use a kind of glop to attach the electrodes to my head and I have to wash it out or it will turn to cement and I might never get it out of my hair.

Meanwhile, no one has called to give me information about last week’s echocardiogram. I called the office and she pointed out if there was anything wrong, they would have called me. So I can assume if there is anything amiss, I’d already know it.

I guess I’ll stop worrying.

Now all I have to do is worry about surviving without coffee and getting the goop out of my hair.

It’s going to be a really terrific day. And a great night, too. I can hardly wait. The high point of this day was that the hospital called me — a human BEING called me — to remind me about the test. A real live person called and asked me if I was going to be there. I said yes and she said “Great!” We both hung up.

Wow. A living person called me. How often does THAT happen?

BATHROOM REDO AND THE BUSYNESS OF LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

Have I mentioned we’ve been a little bit busy?

We have indeed been a little bit busy and more than a little pressed for time. Everything seems to happen at the same time. For me, all my medical stuff happens in March.

Installing plumbing
The bathtub is already gone.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, most of my major surgeries have occurred in March which is why I’ve spent so many birthdays in the hospital. It’s also why I have so many physical work-ups in March.

Putting in the glass doors

I suppose in a way it’s good. I get everything sorted out in a month or maybe six weeks and with a little luck, I don’t have to think about it again for another six months or a year. But the period of time makes life pretty hectic and the older we get, the harder these hectic periods are for us. I get tired quickly and these days, Garry wears out fast too.

Utility wall and shower
Bench end

Add to that all the changes I’ve been making in sorting out our utilities and this major change in the house … and there are more to come. I’ve still got to get the chimney repaired before it falls down.

Bench end with sink and window
As much of the room as I could fit into the picture!

Did I mention that someone apparently took a baseball bat to our mailbox? And our across-the-street neighbor’s mailbox too? And our around the block neighbor’s mailbox too? Apparently, that’s what bored teenage boys do in rural neighborhoods in winter when there’s absolutely nothing to do. So we can’t get mail delivered until we get a new mailbox and post — which we can’t do until the ground melts and the snow is gone. Which is going to be a few more days, assuming we don’t get any more freezes.

Winter makes everything somehow busier. The plowing and the shoveling and the expense of paying the plow which is huge for our small budget.

Another view of the bathroom. Looks pretty good!

And everything will settle down in another month or so I fondly believe. Meanwhile, here are some pictures. I’ll try to get some better ones with a wide-angle lens tomorrow assuming we have reasonable light.

It’s supposed to rain. Or maybe not.